40K Editorial: 4th Edition Vs. 5th Edition

5th Edition has now been around for some time and is nearing the point of having less days ahead of it than behind it. So now it is finally time to ask ourselves the big question, with years of games under our belts was it a step forwards, backwards, or sideways?
We are now realistically speaking at about the halfway point in the life span of Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition. 5th edition came out just over 2 years ago, and, judging by the life span of the other editions, has about 2-3 more years left before it is in turn replaced. What this means is that now is a good time for reflection, to consider what has gone before, and what may come after. It is a time when meaningful changes can still be suggested and realistically be received, and when the core tenets and philosophy of the next edition have yet to be decided.

When we talk about 5th edition we are in a unique position to look at it. Due to the growth of the game 5th is most likely the most played edition of the game. The massive explosion of the wargames blogosphere over the last few years also means that 5th is the most talked about edition of the game. It is the big “internet edition”, an edition in which every possible nuance, the pros and cons, the tricks, tactics and loopholes, are all put out on the internet to talk about. This puts us in a very good position to analyze and talk about the game, in fact that’s pretty much what all the writers for the major blogs and websites do.

Or at least its what we do when we aren’t looking for random pictures to put in our articles
So all that being true, I would have to say that we (as in the wargaming community) know 5th Edition 40K pretty well. We have a pretty good idea of what the game is like and what its about. We have have some ideas of what the designers wanted the game to be like. The numerous White Dwarf articles and conversations have given us some insight into the design philosophy behind the game. So what that means is that now is the perfect time to ask the “big question”, did 5th edition succeed? To help us get to the core of this question lets look at some of the major changes between 4th and 5th.
 The following changes have been brought to you by the Tzeentch for president campaign 
1. Design Philosophy
It’s pretty easy to see that 5th edition represented a radical shift in design philosophy from 4th edition. A clear continuity of design philosophy could be seen between 3rd and 4th edition, which was pretty much a continuation and refinement of a line of game design. 5th edition, in spirit at least, seems to have much more in common with the 2nd edition of the game. The major emphases seems to be a concerted effort to move away from a tight rule set meant for competitive tournament play, though still allowing plenty of fun casual play. 5th edition placed the emphases firmly back on a looser casual play style. It’s not really a coincidence that Games Workshop started backing away from the tournament scene when 5th came out; the focus is no longer on them. 
     At least GT’s have good company in the afterlife
 2. True Line of Sight and Wound Allocation and Running
These are three of the really  major changes made to the game. However as I have already talked about TLOS here, wound allocation here, and running here, I won’t discuss them at this time. You can feel free to read those articles to get an idea of what changed.
3. Mech vs. Fotslogging
In 4th ed. transports kind of sucked. They, like most tanks of 4th were kind of fragile as even glancing hits could destroy them. The consequences for being in a destroyed transport where pretty bad as well with the results ranging from losing a turn to having the unit get pretty messed up. Even a simple penetrating hit would force the transported unit out, meaning a loss of movement. In 5th on the other hand mech is king. Transports are now far, far safer for the troops inside of them with the results being fairly trivial if your caught in one that gets destroyed. Vehicles as a whole are also slightly harder to kill now, since a penetrating hit is required for the destroyed result. It is also fair to add the reduced cost of transports in most 5th edition armies to the movement towards mech lists. Now some people posit that the move to push mech armies was a monetary decision on GW’s part. The idea being that if every unit a player take now has a transport, the unit costs twice as much to buy as it did before. This could be true, and can certainly be seen in other game systems that offer very cheap (in game points) units that are pricy in real world money.
That or he hated all the marching he did back in the army and didn’t want to inflict it on his minis
4. Reduction of Wargear
While this is not something from the core rulebook it is something consistent with all 5th edition armies and thus is a major part of what makes 5th, 5th edition. 4th edition codices had a slightly cluttered way of picking wargear, similar to WFB. Basically each army had a arsenal of weapons and wargear that sergeants and characters could pick from to their hearts content. In 5th each person instead just has a list of what wargear options he can take and their price. While this does limit the creative freedom of the last edition it does allow the pricing of wargear to better be set for who is taking it. Overall it has seen the removal of a lot of esoteric and “colorful” items (as well as some common place utility items such as master crafting). One need only compare the Witchhunters book to the current Imperial Guard Codex to see the change.
Of course Sisters and Guard still do work well together
5. Victory Conditions
Another major change in 5th edition was victory conditions for each mission. 4th edition missions used victory points to determine a winner. Most missions also had certain objectives which granted extra victory point to whoever achieved them. This allowed a very wide variety of mission objectives, from controlling points on the table to killing specific models or having units in the enemy’s deployment zone. After tallying the victory points of each side and the difference a chart was consulted to find the margin of victory, though most casual games ignored this. In 5th ed there are really two types of victory condition, objectives and kill points. These represent an all or nothing type of victory, where the game is almost always decided on the last turn. Objectives mean that a good last turn run or deepstrike can utterly change the outcome of the game, without any models being killed. All of these options have something to be said for them. Some people think that victory points where too complicated. Other argue that kill points reward players for killing unimportant units and are unbalanced when it comes to things like Tau vehicle gun drones.
6. Force Weapons and Eternal Warrior
In 4th it used to be that a force weapon was the ultimate killer, they would lay waste to enemy heroes and monsters alike. Force Weapons were in fact one of the major reasons to take pyskers since most of their actual powers where pretty meh. Then came 5th and the rise of Eternal Warrior and the nerf to force weapons. Now with most major characters getting Eternal Warrior it seems that force weapons are pretty useless. Players who take big expensive characters, like Abbadon are quite happy with the change.
 “Bwahahaha, now nothing will stand in the way of me…. getting a new model!”
7. Assaulting Tanks    
This is yet another big change. In 4th models assaulting a tank attacked the side they where facing. Since this was normally the front of the tank it could those AV 14 tanks pretty hard to kill. It could however be very rewarding when a well set up charge manged to get to the back of the enemy’s tank and kill it. In 5th the rules where simplified. Now all assaulting models attack the rear armor of the tank. While for some tanks this does little it makes many tanks like the Lemon Russ Battle Tank and the Predator Tank much more vulnerable to assault. This in part does help balance out that tanks are a little more survivable from shooting.  Some players however will argue that it removes some tactics from the game.
 The average 40k tank in close combat
8. Close Combat Changes
I could devote a whole article to the close combat changes alone so lets just sum it up quickly. The “pile in move” was a major change meaning that pretty much everyone on both sides could fight (and everyone can die). Combat resolution changed dramatically as well. Finally units that win a combat can no longer consolidate into a new enemy unit. Overall these changes (With the exception of combat resolution changes) have helped the person being assaulted.
 Khorne players have a love/hate/kill kill kill relationship with the close combat rules
OK these are just a few of the changes for the edition, but they do cover most of the major ones. So what you might ask is the point of all this. I mean we all play 40k, so we know what the changes were right? Well I just wanted all these changes to be fresh in your mind when I ask the big question: is 5th better than 4th? Is 5th edition a step forward, is it a move in the direction we, the gaming community want the game to move? Many of us have by now played though several editions of 40K, we know what we like and to a degree what we want out of a game. Does 5th fulfill our needs? Many of us now play more then one game system, do we like things about them better due to changes in 5th?

Is the growing popularity of Warmachine and Flames of War a reflection people’s reaction to 5th, or something else? These are all the major questions we, the wargaming community, need to be asking ourselves regarding what we want to see in 40K 6th Edition.  The question is, what do we want, the movements seen in 5th extended even more in 6th or a movement back to what we saw in the days of 3rd-4th? 

 What do we want? More of this would be nice
Alright brothers and sister of the BoLS congregation, that’s it for this time, hope you enjoyed the ride. Do you like it or do you pine for the “good old days”? What do you want out of the next edition of the rules. Anyway lets here what you have to say, that is after all why we have the comments section below. 

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